Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Heikal: A witness who saw nothing | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Those who chose to champion the Egyptian revolution, and bore the slogans of impartiality, transparency and justice, should abide by them and not hesitate to implement them. Yet everyone must equally adhere to such principles so that their sins are weighed with the same balance, otherwise the revolution will only serve to enact personal revenge, rather than adopting the inspiring rhetoric written on the banners.

If those who seek change in Egypt wish to have a country based on impartial law, then they should test themselves using the same legal standards with which Mubarak’s family and associates have been prosecuted, in order to call to account those have who emerged after the revolution, whether beneficiaries, intruders or propagandists.

Mohamed Hasanain Heikal has narrated precise details about modern Arab history, offering as evidence either witnesses who have died, or documents which he claims to be in his possession of and offers to present in public, something which we are sure will never happen. Recently, during the commotion surrounding the Egyptian revolution, Heikal raised his voice narrating his usual tales, but this time about the Egyptian President’s wealth, citing specific figures.

In the developed world, there are two reasons to make us more cautious when speaking of people’s honor, integrity or personal secrets; the fear of law and a moral obligation.

The first issue [the fear of the law] is imposed as part of the state’s discipline, whereas the second issue of moral restraint is a personal stance that serves as a deterrent to make an individual refrain from falsely claiming to know the absolute truth. According to the mantra of “always has been, always will be”, Heikal, for decades and with full confidence, has been accustomed to telling stories drawn from unknown sources, so the audience or listeners do not ask him for evidence to support his claims. Hence, over time and by means of repetition, and because Heikal always met the expectations of his audiences, his stories gained credibility. Therefore, he could easily dare to tarnish the history of an individual, through his stories, without fearing accountability.

The head of the Illicit Gains Authority has recently summoned Heikal to present the documents which he claims to be in his possession of, through which he specified the exact wealth of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. This step confirmed that this apparatus, whose duty it is to fight corruption, is fully aware of the sensitive nature of its work, as well as the fact that there is no room for personal interpretation when it comes to investigations. Most importantly, the apparatus has not allowed Heikal to alter his facts whilst the investigation is still in process, and thus it summoned him, not to punish him, but to silence him and indirectly draw his attention to the fact that the situation now is different, and that the irresponsible freedom he used to enjoy in the time of the former regime is now over. This is simply because head of the Illicit Gains Authority, Essem al-Jourahi, is aware that Heikal’s documents have no existence in reality.

When asked during the investigation, Heikal denied knowledge of the size of Mubarak’s wealth, pointing out that his frame of reference was the foreign press. By saying so, Heikal acted as if we cannot read foreign newspapers, and needed help to archive them.

Yet, a significant question is now raised: Have foreign newspapers really been the source of information for Heikal’s stories over the past 40 years, most prominently his documentation of the Naksa?

After investigations were completed, some observers of Egyptian affairs were unsatisfied, claiming Heikal had evaded punishment for making a false claim, a charge for which he must be penalized by the law. They believed that the punishment would be a deterrent for him as well as well as others. This is correct, yet I think that such an embarrassing public dismantling of Heikal’s image is more impressive than any punishment, for this will prevent him from selling his false stories on which he has built his name. The duty of any anti-corruption apparatus in the world is to ask: Where did you get this from? Even if the word “this” relates to mere words, not palaces, yachts or bank accounts. A word is like a bullet in terms of its speed and impact.